WOONSOCKET — For the first half of Friday’s Division I clash with Woonsocket, winless Cumberland looked nothing like a team that has lost 14 straight league encounters.
The Clippers didn’t looked like it in the second half either, but the Villa Novans were not about to let them walk off their court with their first ‘W’.
Woonsocket picked up its defensive intensity and had a strong second half from Katie Marcoux to pave the way for a 49-34 triumph at Savaria Gymnasium.
The second-place Villa Novans, who improved to 10-5 in the division, held a slim three-point edge over the 0-15 Clippers at the half. Woonsocket was able to break away in the first five minutes of the second half with a 9-2 run and a 37-27 lead. The Blue and White could never get closer than nine points the remainder of the way.
“Cumberland did a great job,” said WHS coach George Coderre. “They did a great job of going to boards. That was the single most important thing that they did. They contested everything on the boards. They got a lot of putbacks. We didn’t match their intensity rebounding until the second half. A good team can’t wait until the second half. They did a good job of getting the ball where they wanted to get it in the first half. I think we did a better job in the second half of stopping that.”
The Clippers did a good job of containing the Villa Novans’ top two scoring threats, senior teammates Kailey Fugere and Michelle Brayboy. Fugere still managed a hard-fought 22 points for game-high scoring honors, but she had just seven in the second half. Brayboy netted nine points.
The Clippers, however, couldn’t find an answer for Marcoux. The senior scored 16 points with 11 of those points coming in the second half. She also finished with seven rebounds and three steals.
“I think we matched them up,” said Cumberland coach Deb Engels. “We obviously tried to shut down Brayboy and Fugere and I thought that worked pretty well. Then (Marcoux) got hot. I think she was the difference in the game, coming along in the stretch there.”
The stretch that Engels was pertaining to was at the beginning of the second half when the Villa Novans went on their 9-2 streak. Marcoux triggered the spurt with seven of those points, starting with a 3-pointer just 30 seconds into the latter half.
“They run a triangle-and-two on Kailey and Michelle and that’s something we have seen and we are going to see,” Coderre said. “The other kids got to have the faith in themselves to step up and offset that. Katie did a great job of that. She really did. She took it upon herself to create some offense and to step up and take the shot.”
In the more-competitive first half, Cumberland junior Bridget Hollenbeck scored all of her team-best 15 points. Trailing by a score of 11-5 after a 3-pointer from Brayboy, Cumberland got itself back into the game by taking its first lead with a 10-2 run that included four points from Hollenbeck. After Fugere tied the contest with a layup, Hollenbeck gave the Clippers their last lead of the night, at 19-15, with back-to-back buckets with still six minutes remaining until the break.
Marcoux’s 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes left would give her teammates an advantage it would not relinquish.
Woonsocket will have a few days off before hosting East Providence on Monday and a suddenly-hot Lincoln squad on Friday. Coderre likes where his Villa Novans are positioned, but he’s knows the road ahead is not easy.
“The bottom line is there are a lot of teams that are playing really well right now,” he said. “Look at some of the teams we have coming up. Lincoln is playing really well. North Providence is playing good basketball. Ponaganset is playing well also. We got East Providence on Monday. That’s a real challenge.”
Cumberland will certainly be challenged in its next two games. On Tuesday, the Clippers host third-place Barrington and on Friday they travel to unbeaten and first-place Bay View Academy.
“We are going to prepare Monday and see if we can upset someone before the end of the season,” Engels said. “Maybe move them out of a spot from up to down. We’ll do our best. We are trying to get one win before the season is done.”